Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Senator Jeff Sessions...Do You Love Oil Money That Much?

So from time to time, I respond to random emails I receive that ask me to write to my senator about some policy issue or another. I'm always happy to put my name at the end of their pre-written letter and send it off to my senator, and more than once, I've gotten a response telling me why he will not be supporting my cause. Since I am a progressive living in Alabama, I am not usually surprised by this, throw the letter away, and go about my business. That changed this weekend.

Oh, it was a pre-written letter from one of the several newsletters I receive in my inbox requesting my immediate action. But this time, it was a matter that I feel very passionately about. This is an issue that is very important to me, and since we all need gas to fuel our vehicles and the price of gas is so outrageously expensive, it is an issue that is important to most Americans. We are all feeling the pain at the bottom of our wallets.

I wrote to Senator Jeff Sessions (R) of Alabama and asked him to do what he could (vote in the Senate) to end taxpayer subsidies of the oil and gas industry. These are special tax breaks given only to the oil industry and paid for by you and me, the taxpayers to the tune of $4 billion. Yeah, it comes out of our paychecks and goes into Exxon and BP's bank accounts. The reasons I, and many Americans, would like to see the end of these subsidies include the following: 1. Have you been to the gas station lately?? Gas prices are nearly $4 a gallon and it's not even officially summer. 2. Oil companies such as Exxon, BP, and Shell are enjoying the highest profits they've ever earned, over $35 billion a year. Yes, that billion with a B. 3. When oil companies started getting these subsidies, they needed them. They were used for exploration, to maintain equipment, etc. And this was important, because as a nation, we needed the oil. Well, the oil companies are making record profits, they do not need an extra $4 billion a year. So, not only are we paying them at the pump and handing them record profits on a yearly basis, but we are also giving them money directly out of our paychecks, courtesy of the government.

So I got a response from Senator Sessions on Saturday, and as expected, he doesn't take the same position I do. That's no surprise. But his letter infuriated me. It was shorter than most of his letters, but I have never seen more lies, politics, and twisted logic on one piece of paper in my life.

The very first thing he writes to me is to indirectly place blame on President Obama for the increase in the price of gas. Um, excuse me, as I recall, when President Bush was President, gas prices were well over $4 a gallon for several months. Who the President is has absolutely no effect on gas prices. In fact, according to supply and demand, the price of a barrel of oil should probably be roughly half what it is now. Refineries are not running anywhere near capacity which means there is more than enough supply to meet current demand. Earlier this month when the CEOs of the big 5 oil companies met at in a Senate hearing, the Exxon CEO even admitted that based on current supply and demand, a barrel of oil should cost around $60-70. The truth of the matter is there are speculators on Wall Street who are artificially jacking up the prices of a barrel of oil, causing all Americans to pay outrageous prices at the pump. Of course the oil companies are profiting from this, but those speculators are getting richer than they could have imagined! There used to be laws that protected against these kinds of practices, but then Republicans took control of the Legislative and Executive branches from 2000-2006 and deregulated Wall Street. Guess when oil speculation got started? Guess when the price of oil started to skyrocket? In 2005, the price of oil doubled after President Bush and the Republicans deregulated Wall Street, and in 2008, that price more than doubled again, to an all-time high of $126 a barrel.

The very next line, and most of the remainder of the letter, completely insults my intelligence. This is the twisted lawyer-speak that he must think all of us dumb, redneck Alabamians will just accept because it's coming from a wealthy, educated U.S. Senator. Well, guess what? I am no dumb, back-woods, uneducated fool, and I'd venture to say that most non-Fox News watching Americans are not either. I wrote to Senator Sessions specifically about ending taxpayer subsidies that were being given to oil companies that are making record profits. And he writes back to me and tells me that he does not want to make the U.S. "less competitive" by "raising taxes" on energy companies. Needless to say, it took me a while to pick my jaw up off the floor. I and millions of Americans have taxes deducted from our paychecks each payday and a portion of that money is given to these oil companies. And Senator Sessions has the gall to write to me and tell me that he does not want to "raise" the oil companies' taxes? This goes back to how GE doesn't pay a dime in taxes on their $5 billion in domestic profits and in fact, gets a rebate check from taxpayers' funds.

The next lie Mr. Sessions puts forth is that if we "raise taxes" (end oil subsidies) on American oil companies, they might be less competitive, reduce American production of oil and gas, and cause Americans to lose their jobs. Now I'd like the Senator to help me understand how a company that has made $35 billion in profits in a single year is in jeopardy of having to reduce production and lay off workers. And as I mentioned before, our refineries are hardly working at full capacity anyways. Senator Sessions notes that the Unites States has the second highest corporate tax rate in the developed world. While this may be true, even he admits, "Essentially all companies operating in America are subject to a wide range of tax credits, deductions, and accounting methodologies...." These companies have lawyers and accountants that find loopholes and every means possible in the tax code to reduce their tax burden, to the point that in cases such as GE, they pay little to no taxes, and then get a refund on top of that. So to Mr. Sessions assertion that oil companies may move to lower tax countries, I say bull puckey (stole the phrase from Rachel Maddow)! They're not going anywhere as long as they get these kinds of perks.

Oh, and just for the sake of context, Senator Jeff Sessions took nearly $105,000 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry from 2005-2010, according to the website OpenSecrets.org. So when Democrats in the Senate brought a bill to be considered to eliminate taxpayer subsidies on May 17, 2011, guess how Senator Sessions voted? Well, he didn't vote in favor of we, the taxpayers. He voted to block the bill from coming to the floor for consideration. He sided with his buddies in the oil industry and protected them and their bottom line, which completely contradicts the last line of his letter to me (which by the way, contradicts the entire rest of his letter). "It is clear, however, that the oil companies have had a number of high profit years and must pay their fair share of taxes. They do not need unjustified tax breaks."

It's funny to me that Republicans have been crying all year about the record deficit and cutting spending by as much as trillions. And when the majority of Americans are crying out to take these subsidies away from oil companies, Republicans overwhelmingly work to protect them and keep them in place. This $4 billion per year could go to reducing the deficit, or improving our kids education, or any number of worthy causes to improve our nation. But when it comes right down to it, Republicans just do not care about any of that. They only care about the large corporations and the very wealthy who contribute to their re-election campaigns. And from this day forth, it is my solemn duty and mission to see to it that in 2014, when Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions is up for re-election, that he is defeated and does not return to Washington to represent myself or the people of Alabama. He has shown that he is not interested in Main Street, the middle class, the working class, or the poor that voted for him. He's only working for the corporations, industries, lobbies, and wealthy individuals who contribute to his campaigns and  PACs that support him. Senator Sessions, remember the name Joshua LaDeau, because I will be a major force working against you in your attempt to be re-elected. You will not make a fool of me or my fellow citizens again!
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